Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Paying For Your Chronic Illness At The Cash Register

I heard a very interesting story today on CNN, which as far as I can tell was taken from an article from (magazine).

The article, entitled, “Your Lifestyle May Hurt Your Credit Score,” can be read here.

The article states that some credit card companies are limiting credit lines based on purchases (i.e. where you spend your money) – marriage counselor, bar, massage parlor – to name a few.

Another article on the same topic from the Washington Independent states that credit card companies are trying to penalize people for going “morally astray.”

The article doesn’t go into more detail about what other kinds of purchases are being penalized, but imagine how quickly my mind went from marriage counselors to chronic illness and the related topic of medical expenses. I, for one, always try to pay for prescriptions (I get these from a hospital pharmacy, not a regular drugstore) and appointment fees by check because I find them easier to keep track of.

In other words, I don’t know how these things would show up on a credit card statement…

But what’s preventing credit card companies from seeing medical expenses and decreasing your credit score. If a person who drinks socially or enjoys massage is a credit liability, certainly a person with a chronic illness is. With this line of reasoning, chronically ill people probably have more expenses and are not as easily able to pay their bills and, who is going to pay your bills if you are, for whatever reason, unable to do so?

And let’s not forget that there are a lot of stigmatized illnesses out there. Plus, many people with chronic illness find such things as massage, acupuncture, and other similar things therapeutic. Plus, a lot of people with chronic illnesses seek help from therapists for a variety of purposes.

So, why do I think this is timely? As we all get ready to celebrate Independence Day, I’ve been thinking a lot about independence, more generally. I think a lot of times chronically ill people feel like they are dependent on others and would prefer not to be. Or they feel, often unnecessarily, like they are a burden to others.

Another issue that chronically ill people face is disclosure. Who do they tell about their illness? How and when do they tell and what do they say? To me, this measure would force disclosure on chronically ill people. It’s often hard enough to disclose your illness to the people you are close to, let alone complete strangers.

Plus I think it’s pretty interesting that credit card companies, who prey on people’s vulnerabilities, think that they are good judges of what is “morally” proper.

This whole credit card thing puts a whole new spin on personal freedom, doesn’t it?

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